In this edition of Spotlight on our Members, we met with Gerardo Almaguer who has recently been appointed as President and Chief Executive Officer of Développement international Desjardins (DID).

He spoke to us about his plans as he embarks in his new role. He also shared his thoughts on the importance of innovation and the private sector in international development.

CCIC: What are you most looking forward to working on in your new role as President/Chief Executive Officer of Développement International Desjardins?

Gerado Almaguer (GA): At DID we have adopted a rather ambitious strategic plan that will guide our work until 2021: this plan presents great challenges and opportunities for myself as the new CEO of DID!

One of the ambitions that I am particularly interested in is to increase our capacity and commitment to investment. DID has been actively involved in this field for more than 20 years now, and we would now like to go even further to strengthen our impact and better contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. From experience we have seen that our investment initiatives are also a lever for governance, financial and risk management activities, all of which are very important to the inclusive finance sector.

I am also very excited about our ambition to be recognized as a leader in building the capacity of agricultural and commercial entrepreneurs and the environments in which they operate. I, myself, managed the Financial Centre for Entrepreneurs set up by DID in Panama as well as the PASAC project (Support for the agricultural finance system in Columbia) that we are carrying out in Colombia, one of the objectives of which is to support the development of agricultural businesses. Through these types of initiatives, we can have a concrete and direct impact on the economic empowerment of disadvantaged communities, and women in particular.

Finally, strengthening and formalizing our culture of innovation is at the heart of our strategic ambitions – how can we not be motivated by such a goal!

CCIC: What is the role of innovation in your work?  Can you share a concrete example of a project that demonstrates the positive impacts of new ways of working?

GA: Innovation is everywhere, both in our internal processes and in our efforts to contribute to financial inclusion and poverty reduction in the countries we work in. Innovation is an engine of development and we need to continue to learn how we can best incorporate it into our work to maximize our impact.

Last April, DID concluded a project that aimed to show that by improving access to financing we can facilitate innovation and accelerate the use of these innovations by agricultural producers.  We carried out this project with the support of the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and in collaboration with the Institut de l’environnement et des recherches agricoles (INERA), the Réseau des Caisses Populaires du Burkina (RCPB) and Université Laval.

After 3 years of activity, the project has demonstrated the expected results! By establishing a dialogue between the various actors in the agricultural sector (farmers, input suppliers, financial institutions and research centres), this initiative has produced the following concrete and positive results:

  • farmers have adopted more innovative, productive and environmentally friendly practices,
  • the area used for agriculture has increased, and
  • affected families have seen their living conditions and food security improve.

CCIC: What do you see as the role of the private sector in working to support development objectives?

GA: Several analyses show that without the contribution of the private sector, the public sector alone will not be able to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. As a result, we must find new ways to maximize our contributions to achieve these objectives, both in terms of technical assistance and development financing.

This is a consideration that directly concerns DID and we intend to respond to it with, among other things, an increased commitment to investment. With this in mind, we have made the strategic choice to expand our role. In addition to acting as an implementing organization, we will now function as a development investor. In doing so, we are setting up a new investment fund that will support innovation among our partners.

CCIC: Développement international Desjardins (DID) is a valued member of CCIC. Could you please comment on what your CCIC membership has meant to DID and identify how you would like to see this relationship grow and improve in the future?

We see many benefits from our membership with CCIC! Our membership has allowed us to get closer to NGOs that share our concerns and with whom we see many interesting opportunities for collaboration. CCIC is also a valuable source of information and analysis, and an effective voice to donors and other stakeholders associated with the international aid sector.

I hope that in return, DID will contribute to enriching CCIC’s background and discussions based on our experience and most recent innovations.